Category Archives: Good News

Some thoughts for Mothering Sunday (Lent 4)

The Rose

Say it with flowers!” I’m sure florists all over the land have been inundated during the last few days with orders for bouquets, sprays, and posies.

Today, of course, is Mothering Sunday, and what symbolises the love we feel today, and the joy we feel today, than the beautiful gift of a flower….and particularly that of a rose…

“Enough the rose was heaven to smell” – that’s a fine line….

…yes, there is something special, beautiful, almost heavenly about a rose.

It is a thing of beauty; a thing of joy. Roses and rejoicing go well together.

The Prophet Isaiah when talking of the future glory of Zion writes:

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose

He seems to link the rejoicing of the people with the blossoming of the rose.

The rose – it symbolises fertility, joy, success – it is something to be prized.

It’s not new, however, this giving of a rose to a worthy recipient at this time of year, you know

On the fourth Sunday in Lent, a Golden Rose, an ornament was given by the Roman Catholic Church to worthy women as well as men as a mark of special favour – rather like the Oscars of their day.

It’s said that the tradition dates back a long way to the time of the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, when, supposedly, a bud or flower sprouted on Joseph’s staff or rod – an indication that he was the man Mary should become engaged to & a fulfilment of the prophesy:

There shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him

Somewhere along the line, this tale got less concerned with the birth of the Saviour and more with his mother. Artists in the Middle Ages liked to depict the happy couple, Mary & Joseph, together at the scene of their betrothal – rod, bud, flower and all. And a caption was often to be found beneath the picture: “She is the flower, she is the rose” referring, of course, to Mary

The Rose….in her were the virtues of the rose – sensitivity, beauty, serenity.
Think of her life – a life of love, a life of piety

Think on these early years – told that she had been chosen to give birth to God’s own son;

then the journey to Bethlehem;

and the flight to Egypt –

– all done calmly, faithfully – for the love of God and of her child.

Then think of all the times when Jesus did or said things that she couldn’t comprehend – and on occasion said things that must have hurt her very much

But the love was still there in Mary’s heart

The whole Jesus-story must have seemed like a ghastly riddle to which there was no clue. But she accepted it all – in love, in faith.

A mother’s love never dies. It goes on even to the point of death, even when the crowds and the laughter and the support of the people are gone. There she stands at the foot of the Cross, love still blossoming in her heart.

We learn a lot about love from our mothers. Jesus would learn about love – not only through our Heavenly Father’s Spirit – but also at his mother’s knee From Mary the Rose – Jesus was much indebted…perhaps more than we would credit him for.

And his too was a love that never died just as Mary’s before him. Love does indeed conquer all. Love never gives up.

Let me finish with two different pieces of verse.

The first a stanza from a song which was in a movie called ‘The Rose’ It’s talking about love of a different kind, but we may use it for our own purposes here:

“When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long;

When you think that love is only

For the lucky and for the strong –

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the spring becomes the rose”

 

And this – a 16th Century carol:

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming

From tender stem hath sprung!

Of Jesus’ lineage coming

As men of old have sung.

It came a flower-et bright

Amid the cold of winter

When half spent was the night.

 

The Rose Love – It may seemed buried and dead But the seed is always there, ready to burst forth in blossom, in all its glory. And after every Good Friday comes Easter morn.

 

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A Journey (on the threshold of the New Year – 2018)

Some thoughts – as we stand on the threshold of a New Year.

Colossians 3 verses 1-11

Luke 12 verses 13-21

The Journey

As I’ve mentioned before, when I lived & worked in Trinidad, a popular farewell to loved ones (as they embarked on some trip) was “May journeying mercies be granted to you!”

Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? More than a phrase; a hope, a wish. More than that – a blessing!

When I conduct a wedding ceremony, I often use that prayer for the newly-weds as they embark on their marriage journey – a prayer and blessing: “May God bless you as you travel down the years that lie ahead of you. Journeying mercies be upon you!”

It’s not just appropriate for weddings; we could wish the same of the school-leaver or the Graduate as he or she sets off into the workplace or career.

I guess we could use it (though I haven’t – so far!) at a baptism, when the infant begins her or his life as a child of The Way.

I’m reminded of that familiar traditional Celtic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

A wonderful man, Jamie Stuart, died a year or so ago, at the age of 96

What an extraordinary journey his was.

His life story reveals he had to survive endemic poverty, endless disappointment and the death of those closest to him. Yet, whenever faced with a real uphill challenge, he’s raced up them. Literally. In this James Stuart’s wonderful life he’s been a champion runner, a blanket salesman, an actor, an aircraft wireless operator, a social worker, a paper boy (at the age of 68) and a best-selling writer…….

……and, if you didn’t recognise the name at first, then, if I mention “The Glasgow Bible” – the Scriptures written in the vernacular, you’ll know him as the author of that wonderfully accessible work, full of flair, wit, and the insight only a Glaswegian has.

Among the many yarns that he re-tells is that of what is essentially the story of a journey – from curiosity, to interest, to faith……

Listen:

“When Jesus went oan inty Jericho, there wis this man cawd Zacchaeus. He wis the heid tax man for the district an so wis quite rich – in fact he wis really loaded!

“But though he had plenty o money, he wisny whit ye might caw happy, an he wis dead keen tae meet this Jesus he’d heard aw aboot.

“Zacchaeus, bein a wee man, canny get near oan accoont o the great crowd o folk roon aboot Jesus. So he decides tae sclim up a sycamore tree beside the road tae watch.

“When Jesus eventually comes alang, he spies Zacchaeus. Lookin up, he shouts, ‘Hi there, wee man – come doon will ye! Ah’ve decided tae invite masel tae yer hoose for a meal this efternin.’

“Tae say that wee Zacchaeus wis fair chuffed is pittin it mildly!

“But the rest o the folk, by the wey, wir no very pleased that Jesus wis gauny eat wi a bloke they cawd a crook.

“But already Zacchaeus is a chinged man! He says tae Jesus, ‘Lord, see me? Ah’m gauny gie hauf o ma money tae the puir. An ah’ll promise tae look efter aw the folk that ah’ve cheated, so ah will.’

“Jesus turned roon tae the dumfoonert crowd an telt them tae haud their wheesht: ‘This man wis a sinner,’ he said. ‘He’s fund peace at last.’

Of course, not all journeys go to plan. There can be obstacles in the way; there may be detours which we would rather not have taken; we find ourselves in cul de sacs; we may end up feeling that we can’t travel another step.

Sometimes we try to make the best of it, often in our own strength. Although we may succeed after a fashion, only occasionally does it reach anything like a satisfactory conclusion.

There are many stories in the Bible of people and tribes who have made the wrong decision. Some have come to the Lord to seek wisdom and direction; others have muddled on, unrepentant and confused.

Jesus gave some sound advice to his followers in the parables recorded in the Gospel of Luke, including the story of the rich man who stored up his abundant crops.

There is, also, for example, the parable of the beggar, Lazarus, and the Rich Man (“Dives”) who wanted to enter heaven, and the one about the Ruler who wanted to inherit eternal life.

They all wanted the ultimate, but their decision was wrong, and they left it too late to make that “U-turn” as it were on their personal journey.

One of the most gifted players ever to grace a football pitch was the great George Best. Sadly, we still remember how booze and birds eroded what was once a remarkable talent.

Doing the rounds of TV chat shows and the after-dinner speaking circuit, he woul tell a particular story against himself.

One evening he recalled, having won a large sum of money at a London casino, he and his then girlfriend, a former Miss World, booked into a luxury hotel.

He then explained how he spread the money – lots of it, in high denomination notes – on the king sized bed, before phoning room service for champagne to be sent up.

The waiter duly arrived. Open-mouthed, he looked in disbelief at all the cash that was spread over the bed. And agog at Miss World draped seductively over a chaise-longue.

Nervously, in a voice that was barely above a whisper, he said: “Mr Best, I hope you don’t mind me asking – but where did it all go wrong?”

An amusing anecdote (but, by the way, I once recounted this tale to an audience largely made up of wealthy businessmen and high-flying professionals – and their reaction was….. zilch, zero)

However, there is a lot of truth in that story. George Best’s journey began in humble but essentially decent circumstances, with a down-to-earth upbringing in a devout Northern Irish family home.

Blessed with a wonderful talent, he could have continued to travel a road accompanied, as it were, by thousands of youngsters inspired by someone who could have been an ideal role model….but….he chose another route that led ultimately to his own self-destruction.

{btw he was reduced to playing for Hibs as he reached the end of his playing days! Said he who is a staunch Jambo}

How often have we seen glittering careers tarnished by self-orientation, self-seeking, self-indulgence. Ruined because of living for the moment.

“Take your ease” said the rich man in Christ’s parable; “Eat, drink, be merry”

Tomorrow never comes – well, actually, it does….and often when we least expect it.

The sad, but obvious, thing is that you can’t take it with you when tomorrow comes. I’ve yet to see a Securicor van as part of a funeral cortège.

The thrust of Christ’s parable should speak to those who want to shop till they drop, those who put getting to the top regardless of the means to climb there, those so involved in the rat race that family life takes a back seat, those who travel on a personal journey that may be temporarily satisfying but leaves no room for the needs of others.

Does it boil down to faith – this journey?

It depends on how we define “faith” – “Seek the things that are above…” writes Paul; “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”

It’s all a matter of direction and priorities – as both Jesus in his Parable and Paul in his Epistle indicate.

The choice is ours.

Sometimes, we may miss the obvious route to travel; but sometimes – just sometimes, the Spirit may lead us to a better destination.

A story to finish – it’s about a journey; in this case, a voyage that went “wrong”

In Southern Tasmania, there is a promontory of land on the shore of the Huon River.

On one side is Castle Forbes Bay, named after the Irish ship “The Castle Howard”

In 1836, the Captain mistook the entrance of the Huon River for that of the Derwent River a few miles farther along the coast.

The Derwent led to Hobart Town, his destination, one of Australia’s finest deep water ports, and an important centre for the whaling trade.

From the census of the previous year (1835) Hobart Town contained 13,826 inhabitants, and the whole of Tasmania 36,505.

But they missed it; things got worse when sickness broke out on board, and fresh water was running out.

A terrible miscalculation on the ship’s journey.

They made landfall – miles from their original destination – and set up camp.

But there was no drinking water there, and the passengers were suffering.

However, after a while, desperately scouting the area, a fresh water rivulet was discovered.

They erected tents to hospitalise the sick passengers….. and to this day the area is known as Hospital Bay.

Although they settled this place by default, many of the female passengers remained and married the local timber workers.

And they prospered and many of their descendants still live in or around there.

Not all journeys may go to plan…..but God has plans for all our journeys.

May journeying mercies attend you all, wherever your life-travel takes you, especially as we enter this New Year of 2018.

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iPod (a children’s story for the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany, Year B)

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I’m sure that all of you will know what this tiny little thing is – an iPod.

Some of the grown ups here might not know what that is. – can anybody tell them?

It’s a great little gadget – and it’s something that is very personal to us…. we choose the songs to put on it…… and we’re the only people who usually listen to it.

We fix headphones to it and only we can hear the music – whether we’re walking along the road, or in our room, or travelling somewhere.

It’s great to cut ourselves off from everything around us.

Jesus did that sometimes – NOT with an iPod! He would go away to a quiet place and, on his own, would listen to God.

Now, here’s a thing. If we come across something really good, we usually want to share it.

My iPod here actually stays in my car all the time. Although the car has a CD player, it also has a little slot into which I can attach my iPod…… and the music plays through the speakers….. so that all the passengers with me can enjoy the songs too.

When Jesus finished being in a place on his own, praying to God and listening to him, he would come back to join everybody else – and most times there were crowds of them – and would share the good news of God’s love with them.

And so should everybody who loves Jesus. It’s great to be on our own sometimes – but how much better it is to share with other folk just how wonderful a Saviour he is.

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